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Chaz Checks In... Jerez

After a disappointing start to the season in South Africa I was hoping that, that will be my share of first corner bad luck over with for the rest of the year. Me and my dad arrived home from South Africa early Tuesday morning giving me a few days rest with just under a week before I left for the second race of the year, the Spanish GP at Jerez. On the Monday before we left I did some supermoto on my dads kart circuit. I also tried some endurance supermoto because on the kart track you get no rest and its intense training. So I settled at a reasonably quick pace and tried to match it lap in lap out for half an hour. Riding supermoto definitely rubs off when riding the 250 because on the supermoto I feather the clutch on the way into each corner which acts as a slipper clutch, and makes the corner entry a nice smooth backing in process. Now I constantly find my index finger hovering over the clutch on my 250 where as it never used to. Hopefully come winter, in the off season, I'll be able to do some supermoto winter series racing.

We arrived at Jerez on Wednesday afternoon to some slightly cloudy skies and not the usual warm temperatures that Jerez normally gives at this time of year. Its always noticeable at the start of the European season how much more impressive and bigger the hospitality side of the paddock is getting. This year we will be sharing Lucio Cecchinello's hospitality with his team and a French 250 team. This is ideal for Dieter and our team because we just turn up and everything is already there and Lucio's set-up is always very professional with good Italian food throughout the weekend.

On Thursday morning I went through my gearbox settings with Klaus (my telemetry man) to find out what I wanted to use compared to testing. We decided to keep the same gearbox we used in testing at Jerez and then make changes if need be. About midday I did 5 laps of the circuit on a mountain bike just to re-familiarise myself again. Even though I've done plenty of laps around Jerez in the past its always good to run or cycle the circuit and go through the lines and gears that should be used in your head.

The latest craze in the paddock seems to be the 50cc mini motocross bikes. Shane Byrne brought along two bikes which were wheelied (and flipped) up and down in front of the motor homes all afternoon by him, Edwards, Bayliss, Jeremy McWilliams and plenty of others. I also have some top photos of John Hopkins with a full on, tongue out of mouth & deeply concentrated face! I have a feeling that there's going to be an army of riders wheelying the mini 50's up and down the paddock in Le Mans as everybody is talking about getting them!

The weather for the weekend was predicted dull but dry on Friday, showers on Saturday and constant rain on Sunday . Usually you hear all sorts of different stories but everybody seemed to be saying the same thing for this weekend.

For Friday morning I ran in new pistons for the first 5 laps as usual for every Free Practice session. The main aim for the first session was to feel for a difference in the chassis from the IRTA tests in March. At the IRTA test we had been using a smaller head stock cup size which makes the bike shorter. This was designed as a factory part years ago for small riders such as Tetsuya Harada. He used this to make the bike shorter which makes the bike easier to turn and change direction because they don't have the weight or height of a bigger rider to help them. As I am quite tall I found that this setting in the tests wasn't working because with my extra weight over the front on the way into a corner compared to a smaller rider the bike just wanted to pitch on to its nose, being really unstable on hard braking and then push out in the corners and I couldn't keep a tight line. So for the GP we decided to go back to the longer bike setting and immediately I knew it was working better because I could use the lines I wanted too and also at the end of the session, I went 7 tenths faster than I had done in testing. For the afternoon's first qualifying we made a few small changes to the bike to try and get some more life and constant grip from the tyre for more than 5 laps which we managed to improve. I left it a bit late at the end of the session to bang a new tyre in but had enough for an out lap and two flying laps. On my final lap I managed to do a 1.46.5 which is faster than I've ever been around Jerez before, but I wasn't entirely happy because I made a few small mistakes on this lap and I wanted to get in the 45's. My engine also seemed to be lacking speed as well, so I knew there was a bit to be gained there. We had a few ideas that night to try and improve the feeling from the front but it all depended what the weather was going to do.This time had put me 16th on the grid

Come Saturday morning the forecasts predicted right and it was wet for Free Practice. When the wet tyres are new they have a shiny slick top coat to them which usually takes a lap or two to clean off. I was running in new pistons as normal on my first lap of the session and I went through the 3rd corner slowly, the rear snapped sideways and I found myself out of the seat and trying to get back in control of the bike. This was a real eye opener at the start of the session because I'm always wary of shiny new wets but have never had one let go on me that easily. As the session progressed I was feeling more and more comfortable. With about 25 minutes remaining I got on the back of Anthony West who is a good bet to follow in the wet. I didn't lose that much for in the first ¾ of a lap and when I went into the first right of the stadium section I hit a slightly wetter patch than anywhere else and the front folded. The bike had very little damage and I was a bit dirty but got back out for the last 6 minutes. I soon realised the right handle bar was bent so it was game over for that session.

For the final qualifying session the circuit was 80% dry but the last 20% of wetness was right on the line on some of the corner entry's. I did a few laps at the start of the session but then decided to wait as people were going to struggle to beat Fridays times. In the final 15 minutes West had managed to find a setting and bumped me off the 4th row to 17th position. I knew I was going to struggle to beat my time from Friday and most peoples times were 1.5- 2 seconds slower with the exception of West, so I ended up 17th on the grid.

The weather was playing havoc with everybody because it was never fully wet or dry but for Sunday it had made its mind up. For morning warm up it was wet but there was no surface water. By the time it came to the race it had well and truly decided it was going to be wet and there was standing water everywhere. My start was average, I didn't gain any places and didn't lose any but was on the outside for the first corner which means that you normally have no option but to stay on the outside for the second corner as well. I had lost about 7 places by the time we had got to the back straight and could tell by the feedback I was getting from the bike that It was going to be a very tough race. I know what feeling I need In the rain to go fast but it wasn't there. At Phillip Island last year I had a slow start to the race and then came through and had the feeling like I couldn't put a foot wrong which is the feeling you need to have. Eventually I crashed at Phillip Island but at least my times were close to the front runners times and I got back on and scored 1 point. Every time I tried to get on the gas a bit harder in Jerez the bike would just kick sideways and gave me no confidence to open the thing up. Just as my team mate was behind me my front tucked and then the rear came around and he passed. I was able to more or less hold the group that were about 8 seconds in front so I tried pushing harder to bridge the gap. On lap 8 I just started to roll on the gas on the exit of the long corner onto the back straight and the rear slipped from underneath me and high sided me. I didn't expect to get thrown off there because its not a place where people seemed to be crashing. Again the bike damage was minimal and I only have a cut on my chin but I am very disappointed to not get a decent result where I was quite confidant I could have. Before the weekend started I was hoping for a wet race because I was confidant I could have had a good result and thought we might have struggled to cure the problems we were having in the dry testing but it seemed to be the other way around.

So with no points to my name so far this year I am desperate to get a good amount in Le Mans and make up some ground as it's a circuit where I know I can go well.




© 2006

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